The Washington Policy Center (WPC) is calling on the governor and the state Legislature to protect the education of over 1,300 public charter school students who’s schools have been threatened by the state Supreme Court’s ruling against the charter school law—a law voters passed in 2012. Next year, the charter schools that students and their families depend on may be forced to close.
In November, the state Supreme Court announced that it would not reconsider its ruling declaring charter schools unconstitutional. The court’s refusal to reconsider comes despite the urging of the Washington State Charter Schools Association, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a bipartisan group of 10 legislators and four former state attorneys general to correct its harmful decision.
If charter schools are to have a future in our state, the state Legislature and Jay Inslee will have to change state law during the 2016 legislative session. It’s well assured that Republicans would support a change in the law respecting voters’ will and reinstating charter schools. Whether or not Democrats would be supportive is less assured.
While some Democrats have joined Republicans in condemning the court’s ruling, others have cheered it—proving their true priority is special interests rather than education. The 36th District Democrats passed a “resolution” stating their support for the ruling. Revealing Democrat’s hostility, state Rep. Gerry Pollet went as far as to say he used the opportunity of charter school students asking lawmakers to save their schools to teach them about their “privilege”.
If allowing 1,300 children to attend their schools is not enough reason to change state law, Democrats might find more motivation in the fact that the court’s decision “calls into question the constitutionality of a wide range of other state educational programs.” The list of the other schools and programs now threatened by the court include:
- Running Start, and its 20,000 students which is governed by appointed boards.
- Advanced Placement courses, and their 71,000 students, which are designed and controlled by the College Board, a private company.
- Online Education, with 23,000 students whose courses are governed by private companies.
- Tribal Schools, and their 1,000 students, which are governed by unelected Tribal administrators.
Republican state Senator Joe Fain recently broke down the implications of the court’s decision in a recent video. They include more than just threatening other schools and programs. Among other consequences, Fain explains the absurdity of the court’s ruling by pointing out it essentially implies that any spending on non-common schools taints the state budget. He also explains how the charter school law’s severability clause should have saved charter schools, if the court’s decision applied it accurately.
According to Fain, “the votes are there” in the state Legislature to save charter schools by fixing the court’s ruling. Fain concludes, “It is now up to the legislature and the governor to act to ensure these kids can stay in their classrooms and that public charter schools remain an option for students and families in our state.”
If you would like to join the effort in urging the state Legislature to act, check out the WPC’s petition asking lawmakers to respect the will of the voters here.